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les amis Collective 2.0

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Enjolras calls Bahorel.

“Who is this?”

“Shut up. Are you incapable of civil conversation in civilian life too?”

“Great, a rude mystery caller. Just how I like to start my day.”

“Bahorel--”

“Groveling at your feet, o my Captain. I only sought to deflect the shock and delight of your contact with a tattered veil of sarcasm.”

“Quite,” says Enjolras.

“So what can I do you for?”

Enjolras takes a breath. Lets it out again. Has a sip of the now-cold coffee that Grantaire made. He's drawn the contents of the cup out over several hours. Decidedly unproductive hours.

“Theoretically, classified,” starts Enjolras, then stops, then starts again: “After you've gone out with someone you met, how long do you wait to hear from them again?”

Silence, then a delighted chuckle. “And how long do you wait to text them yourself,” says Bahorel, and Enjolras is glad for his bluntness; there's a reason he called Bahorel, who prefers to read between the lines aloud. “Hmm. Taking into consideration my considerably vast experience, there isn't an exact science, y'know? You gotta feel it out. Usually I'd say to give it space and breathing room, but it sounds like you want this to be more immediate.”

“I don't know.” It's the truth. In the time since Grantaire left he's idled and stared and lain on the bed and destroyed the reputation of an anti-reform candidate in Tunisia and looked at and held his phone. In the run-up to the restaurant meeting they had texted each other almost constantly, with a playful back-and-forth; but now Grantaire is gone and his bed is still unmade, and the quiet is eerie.

Bahorel fills it a moment, at least. “Send something non-committal. A 'hey,' if you would. Leave it up to them to fill in the blanks, if they want to. Put the ball into their court.”

Enjolras considers. “That's actually not a bad idea.”

“I choose to take no offense at your shock that I could generate such a one. Was there anything else?”

“You can take another day or two with the log reports,” says Enjolras, and hangs up.

He runs three hours of necessary security and maintenance checks in the Collective clouds, then spends an hour and a half Googling old poetry. It's a first for Enjolras on the internet, which is saying something.

His shelves are packed high with books – they're everywhere, in the bedroom, the living room, the den, tomes on programming and politics, history and science; but apart from the classics Enjolras has never been huge on literature. Intro to Composition freshman year of college was pretty much the extent of his literary exploration. Like most extraneous pleasures, he hasn't given himself the time to indulge in reading lately; there's always been something that was more immediate that needed doing. He can't remember the last time he opened a book instead of admired them, come to think. The Googling feels good.

Because Grantaire has a thing for poetry, it seemed. Had probably been one of those kids who carried around a notebook and prized pen, scribing their feelings into angsty verse. Couple hundred years ago, Enjolras thinks, Grantaire would've been the type to drink away his consumption at cafes with poets and painters, then stagger home to his narrow attic.

In fact, it might still be the case present-day. He grins, fighting down a renewed interest in seeing more of how Grantaire lives. He sleeps in a neighborhood of Brooklyn the gentrifiers haven't reached yet, and Enjolras pictures a tiny, crowded room, filled up with sentimental clutter and art projects, a futon on the floor with the sheets unmade, where he could push Grantaire down and kiss his wry lips the way they'd kissed while they were fucking which was like a new kind of kissing, a brave new world of mouth to mouth resuscitation and --

Enjolras isn't about to put his thoughts into pentameter, but he knows how to crawl the web with alacrity. After conducting comparative research, he flicks open a text screen to Grantaire on his phone.

The last message is from Thursday, from Grantaire: I'll wear green so you'll know me.

Enjolras stops smiling because his vision is abruptly swimming with the steamheat of the shower they had shared that morning, the hot water coming down fast and hard while they kissed fast and hard underneath it, kissed almost angrily, their hands hungry on slippery skin. Then Enjolras had broken away to stand behind Grantaire, but the offer to soap his back proved unsustainable; all too soon he was scratching down Grantaire's back, leaving scarlet lines, scoring deeper and deeper as Grantaire groaned.

Grantaire put his head down under the water, his dripping hair an inkspill, and Enjolras stopped scratching after a while and wound his arms around Grantaire and wrapped one hand around Grantaire's cock and jerked him off for a much longer while, taking leisurely time to learn which grips Grantaire liked best. He set to darkening the bloodbruise he had begun at the juncture of Grantaire's neck with the suction of his mouth.

He didn't stop either actions, sucking and stroking, until Grantaire came with a stream-of-conscious filthy stream of words and a scaled moan that made Enjolras want to bend him over, have Grantaire brace his hands against the wet wall, push his legs apart and shove deep into Grantaire again; it was an excellent idea that demanded for testing, only Grantaire had blown his mind and his cock in bed fifteen minutes before and even Enjolras' hearty constitution couldn't recover quite so quickly. He settled for making sure Grantaire was as wracked as he was. He drained him to the dregs.

A day before, they hadn't known each other, and but as of the morning events like the bed they'd shared and the shower were things that happened in Enjolras' life. Things that could be made to happen. So he finds a poem he thinks Grantaire might appreciate, but one that seems neutral enough, no Romeo and Juliet shit, and he taps out a line on the phone with his eyes on the computer screen, rereading the rhymes.

Malt does more than Milton can / To justify God's ways to man,” Enjolras types. Then he stares at the text a moment, wondering for the thousandth time that day how to parse the etiquette of communicating with a near-stranger with whom one has shared several earth-shaking orgasms. Then he hits send. Then he puts the phone into the desk drawer. Then he locks the desk drawer.

He doesn't look at the phone again, he doesn't touch it (he can't), until it buzzes with Grantaire's return message an hour and a half later. Enjolras may or may not have exposed the whereabouts of a secret rendition prison Romania in the interim. He unlocks the drawer and swipes his thumb across the screen.

A.E. Housman is the man, the message reads, and Enjolras does not sigh with relief. People don't actually do things like that. You find him out if you like poems and boys when you're young

Then, a moment later, while Enjolras' hand vibrates: Can I have your email? I'm really bad at communicating on this thing

I guess I could send you a postcard since I know where you live

I didn't mean that to sound like a creepy postcard

Enjolras closes his laptop on a half-completed mission, giving a tyrannical oligarch in Russia a few more hours on the lamb, and carries his phone, a tablet and the coffee cup into the den. He sits in the overstuffed leather armchair and puts his feet up. He sends Grantaire an address and then he reads the news and a half an hour later there's an email from Grantaire:

You guessed right that this is a lot of what I do:

Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.

But this was always my favorite part:

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck’s a chance, but trouble’s sure,
I’d face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.

You were also right to call me a cynic at dinner. I was being a brat and playing the part. It's been a long time since anything much seemed deserving of my attention, and I've gotten used to wallowing. You helped snapped me out of that a while. A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing, said Oscar Wilde. I hope I'm not that far gone? It's more like George Carlin put it: scratch any cynic and you'll find a disappointed idealist. I wanted you to know that I appreciated your passionate pleas on behalf of mankind, and I apologize for any raised eyebrows on my behalf. It's cool how invested you seem to be in saving the planet like that's a viable thing that can be done. I think I remembered what it felt like to believe we could really change the way things are for a minute. So I wanted to thank you for that.

Also for the shower. I can't stop thi

Ten minutes later, a follow-up hits his inbox: P.S. Made myself send that before I could delete. The gig's on for Thursday at 9p.m at thee if you're still up for it. Friends are very welcome, it should be cool (you thought I was going to say chill but I wasn't). The more the merrier every body helps the bands' receipts.

For a few minutes Enjolras reads and re-reads, and feels the sides of his mouth quirk, and needs to stop smiling while staring at screens and interacting with Grantaire. He hadn't expected the expository essay, but he can hardly find fault with its contents. He isn't used to people being as unguarded with their inner monologues as Grantaire; almost everyone he interacts with on a daily basis has a secret identity, and many have offline he knows nothing of. Personal information is dangerous in Enjolras' world, a prized commodity.

Grantaire is a pleasantly alien personality. He's seems confused as to who to be and how to react and more open about his confusion, strong in his ideals yet wrenched in every direction. He's from planet empathy. Enjolras thinks he's seen enough to have a certain measure of him, but despite Grantaire's solicitude, there appears a layer of things unsaid: He's careful not to give out many details about what he's felt himself, but instead speaks in broad swathes of general sympathy.

He tells the stories of the strangers he's met while traveling, not his own experiences until asked. He shares his coworkers' feelings on wages and the boss, neglecting to mention his opinion. He cites which friends and famous people have influenced him rather than describe his own pursuit of art. He's an open book; he's written in invisible ink.

See you Thursday, Enjolras writes back, which hardly seems like enough to say, but he wants Grantaire to know he's taken in his words, not fire back with a long rhetorical missive of his own. Not yet. I'll invite some people. Looking forward to it. Christ, it sounds like a business email to one of the legit freelance customers he maintains for cover.

I'm still drinking your coffee, he adds, and then presses send before he can press backspace. It's getting dark outside, and Grantaire left in the morning. Enjolras hopes he'll get the message.

He invites Combeferre and Joly, who are enthusiastic enough about the prospect of a night out. When his friends gathered socially, or, far more rarely, trusted and vetted members of the Collective in the city did, they tended stay in or rent a private dining room for conversations best not exposed to prying ears. A crowded bar with a slate of hipster bands and the chance to meet the guy Enjolras had taken the time to dress for and then taken home was not going to be missed in favor of pirating episodes of Game of Thrones for the masses.

Courfeyrac invites himself.


* * *


Thursday can't come soon enough and takes its goddamned time. The press, and all the underground channels, are freaking out over a leaked report that authorizes the President of the United States to order the assassination of “suspect” American citizens overseas via drone; their lives often feel like science fiction but Enjolras hasn't wanted to abandon the planet for an asteroid colony so badly in a while.

Talking down the group from taking out their frustrations against soft government targets like the Library of Congress and the Department of Agriculture takes up the better part of his days. He's mired in a perpetual headache, since he's half-inclined to allow the hacks, just to send the message of their disapproval.

The amis could do enough neatly surgical damage to harangue minor bureaucrats for a year, but they aren't teenagers anymore. The message, if and when they choose to send it, must now be something boldly decisive and much bigger. But they lack the proper outlet, and everyone's wheels are spinning.

At least there's Thursday, which somehow arrives. Communication with Grantaire has slowed to a trickle with both of them busy -- they're not cut-off, but they're sluggish: an email here and there, a text, a line or two of poetry, a picture snapped of something visual in the city, fuzzy from an old phone -- and Enjolras awakens not with butterflies in his stomach, he's not nervous,, per se, but there might be a few caterpillars.

He tries to keep his expectations for the night at a minimum, reminding himself that they'll be surrounded by friends and music and the frenetic buzz of a bar. He knows he's prepared for a myriad of situations, will assess the scene and react accordingly. He'll be flanked by his lieutenants, have his men at his side; they have eluded INTERPOL, they can do hipsters. He can do this. He can do--

Grantaire will be on stage, which is worth the price of admission, Enjolras thinks, and there will be meeting Grantaire's associates, and small talk, and drinking, and though Enjolras is game enough about the music, he isn't even dressed yet and he already wishes he could rewind to see what the end of the night will bring. It'd be amazing to get to skip through the social scene and have Grantaire back here in the bed Enjolras hasn't dragged himself out of yet. It'd be much easier if Grantaire were already here.

He gets up at last, and exercises, and showers, and eats something while working, sitting at the kitchen counter in a towel, and then he spends a long time getting dressed not to look dressed-up. He wears jeans, and a dark maroon sweater soft from years of favor, with gray cuffs of a button-down showing. Low laced black boots, a hooded black wool jacket to be worn against the cold. No one but Enjolras sees how long he stays in the bathroom with the hair products.

He liberates a few government-censored networks airwaves around the world for a while to pass the time, running relays with amis they have stretching from Syria to the network in North Korea, then signs off as decisively as he can. Everyone's too on edge to allow for a night with a turned-off phone like he and Grantaire had first enjoyed, but Enjolras sets his status to Away, with a big red light.

Combeferre and Joly are to meet him for a drink first in a bar around the corner from Grantaire's, and they're there on time, Joly nattily dressed complete with ironic, expertly-tied bowtie, and Combeferre comfortably slouched in a new vintage hoodie, jeans and colorful sneakers. The breast of his sweatshirt professes that he played lacrosse, which Enjolras is quite sure he has not, and shows a howling coyote. He has broken out his squarest pair of glasses for the evening.

Courfeyrac's there too, waving happily, on his first or second expensive whiskey by the time Enjolras arrives. His chestnut hair is slicked towards punk-rock spikes and he completes the effect with a faded, too-tight Sex Pistols t-shirt and a grin for anyone who looks at him that should probably be illegal. Enjolras elbows him sideways as he climbs into the booth.

Combeferre has already ordered him a Manhattan and Enjolras helps himself to a sip, dropping easily into their outraged political conversation. There's no mention of the Collective, of course, they steer clear from the internet entirely, but there are a few advantages to being in a bar in Brooklyn after all. They can rant about the latest government indignity with impunity, and they do, into first and second drinks.

It's Joly who slides them delicately towards the subject more at hand. “So,” he says, over the rim of his Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic, “Do you know what kind of scene this is? I looked up the bar's website, but they haven't updated since last year. Is this going to be, like, mega-crowded? I only ask because it's flu season, and while I had my shot, of course, there's at least five different known strains loose in the city as we speak--”

“They're calling it the Frankenflu,” Courfeyrac adds, helpful, around a mouthful of whiskey.

Enjolras has another sip, crunching an ice cube between his teeth. “I can't tell you much. But I do know the bands are happy for every person who shows, so that would suggest they're not exactly sold out.”

Joly looks somewhat mollified, but still has the waitress bring a glass of water so that he can drink a preventative emergen-C. Combeferre politely puts in that he's looking forward to the music, Courfeyrac contributes that he's looking to get drunk and have a good time with as many people as Joly cares to push away, and none of them mention Grantaire, leaving it up to him. Enjolras supposes it's for the better; all of them are in a cheerful enough mood and have mostly forgotten about the government by the time they troop back out into the snow towards the other bar.

Inside they have to show their I.D.s and get their hands stamped by a stony-faced bouncer, and Enjolras gives the girl at the little front desk the name of the band Grantaire mentioned, so that they get credit for their admission fee.

They go inside the narrow entrance stomping off snow and looking around: the front is a low-slung wood bar in a long room with an old tin ceiling, with a dozen people in coats or t-shirts or flannel or dresses with smart prints milling around; past the end of the bar are double doors that swing open regularly to reveal a bigger room with a stage set up, many more people and the sound of tune-ups squeaking through uncertain amps. The lighting, in faux glass lamps along the walls, is as low as the ceiling, but the place has a reclaimed old-fashioned charm that's easy enough to walk into.

He doesn't see Grantaire at first, until a couple moves away from the bar and shows him there, leaning over it to catch the bartender's attention. Grantaire's raised hand brings him instant attention and an instantly drawn beer, and Enjolras doesn't see any money being exchanged, only laughter and the familiar jeers of friendship.

Then Grantaire turns with the beer in his hand and sees them all standing there leaking snow onto the old scuffed floorboards, and Enjolras thinks they have to be a particular sight, come to think about it, and he gives Grantaire credit for only widening his eyes a little in reaction.

Then he remembers that he's looking at Grantaire for the first time since Grantaire left his house on a morning a few days and an impossibly long time ago, how Grantaire had looked at him and tasted, then, and here is Grantaire again, straightening up at the bar.

His dark hair has been washed and its tangles worked out, Enjolras notices first, but still it is wild. There's a pink on Grantaire's cheeks, whether from alcohol or the sight of them, but he keeps and broadens the smile he'd shared with the lady bartender. It looks as though he's tried to look inconspicuous -- the white tour t-shirt he's wearing is so faded as to be blurred and unreadable, though it clings to a memory of tie-die. Dark skinny blue jeans fit too close for Enjolras' general comfort, and old boots with their tongues lolling. He doesn't look inconspicuous. Everything clings on to him, spotlighting how good he looks.

Enjolras would definitely prefer to fast-forward through the night.

“Holy fuck,” says Courfeyrac, from somewhere by his left shoulder.

“Behave,” from Joly, from the rearguard. “However, seconded.”

Combeferre, full of restraint, says nothing at all from his right hand, but moves with Enjolras further into the bar as he starts up from the sight of Grantaire.

And then Grantaire is moving towards them too, and this is good, this is fine, he can do this, it's better this way than trying to introduce them all shouting over each other in the music room. He'd planned for that scenario too. But there's no planning for Grantaire, who loops right in.

It's Grantaire who seems to know what to do, who does it, despite all of Enjolras' preparation and run-through potential scenarios. Grantaire solves the problem of what to do physically by greeting Enjolras with a loose arm around his back, a half-hug, if you will, intimate yet noncommittal.

He drops the arm as easily and turns on the sort of welcoming expression combined with winning smile difficult to resist. Some people appear genuinely open when you meet them, excited to meet you, ready to hear your life story for hours with their face primed with sympathy, and it is not an act. That's the sort of look Grantaire gives his friends.

“Hi! I'm Grantaire? I'm so glad you guys could make it. This is so great, you don't even know. Our singer was getting shit about the crowd numbers, but you totally just put us over quota. You're the heroes of the night. What's your poison? We're still getting set up; it'll be about twenty minutes until the first act, and we're on second, and there'll be a break in between that -- you know band set-up speeds. Make yourself at home. That's Eponine at the bar. Tell her that I sent you, okay? Thanks again for coming. You have to tell me your names slowly, I'm terrible with names.”

The force of Grantaire's greeting leaves them smiling back at least, and Enjolras absorbs the speech and the arm across his back that is fleeting and gone and then it's his turn to be a functioning person. He takes a deep breath.

He's Enjolras, a computer programer who freelances in online security and web design for profit. He studied computer science and political science at a name school, has traveled the world (for business), and these are his friends, tonight, not his lieutenants.

Combeferre, his brilliant best friend, his enduring compass. Joly, his cautious, wickedly clever adviser. Courfeyrac, his beloved adversary for attention and partner in crime.

He breathes out, and then he introduces them as such: Combeferre works on developing medical devices at a local University hospital, where Joly happens to be a lab assistant; Courfeyrac, who often likes to assume a new persona on a night out until seriously questioned, introduces himself as an aspiring actor new to the city.

Grantaire doesn't blink once, but greets them merrily in turn, and when he gets to Courfeyrac he says, “New to acting, too. When you lie, you glance naturally to the right, or my left; and you are lying, sir, and look much too healthy to be any actor I know. However, there are several inside, and I think you may be a natural. If you're into off-off-off Broadway I can almost guarantee a part. How are you with onstage nudity?”

“We like you,” says Courfeyrac, moving to the bar, and slinging a companionable arm around Grantaire's shoulders in passing. It's more than Enjolras has gotten to do, and his eyes feel narrowed. The others go to join Courfeyrac in getting drinks, and leave him as alone as he can be with Grantaire in a space full of people who know them and are half-watching.

“Hey,” says Grantaire, more softly, without the performance in his tone.

“Hi,” says Enjolras. He leans in and down to brush his lips across Grantaire's cheek: intimate, noncommittal. His hair smells of herbal shampoo, and his cheek is dangerously unshaven.

“Really happy you could be here,” says Grantaire. “To warn you, I'm about to completely embarrass myself. Please pay no attention to the man behind the bass.”

“I'm not sure that's possible,” says Enjolras. Grantaire's bright eyes get a little brighter, and he takes a big sip of beer when he looks like he's not sure what to do with his mouth. To smooth it out, because, Jesus, he's hardly been here five minutes, Enjolras says in a more normal voice, “We're all excited about the show. I didn't have to twist any arms. Should we watch the first band, or--”

“Yeah, yeah.” Grantaire stops looking back at him, glances at the oft-swinging double doors. “It's the good etiquette and karma to do that. Plus they should be cool. Can I get you a drink, or--”

“I think I'll open a tab,” Enjolras says. “Don't worry about it. What are you having?”

“Uh, just a Full Sail amber. It's nice, nothing--”

“Sounds nice,” says Enjolras. “I'll meet you inside, okay?”

“Cool. Right.” Grantaire passes over his now-empty glass to be returned, its contents vanished in the seconds between them, and their fingertips touch a while when he does it. “It's nice to see you, too.”

“Likewise.” It sounds formal but Grantaire looks relieved to hear it. Enjolras suspects he'd been subject to caterpillars, too. At least he'd like to think so.

“I'll get orchestra seats,” says Grantaire, then goes off after another round of mutual staring. On his way to the doors he's halted and hailed by at least five different people, and stops to chat airily. Enjolras makes himself take the high-backed seat next to Joly at the bar.

“We do like him,” Joly confirms. “He seems genuine. And the face, and the overall musculature, and the ass, and everything put together. Well done on both your parts, really.”

Combeferre coughs. “He seems like a perfectly nice person,” he allows. Enjolras does not flinch at the word 'nice,' only waits long enough to hear Courfeyrac say, “You've always been a lucky sonofabitch, but goddamn it all to hell. Does he have a sister, a brother, a close relative in town?”

Enjolras lifts an eyebrow but decides he's not going to let Courfeyrac needle him tonight. “Remind me to ask,” he answers, flat.

He opens the tab with a new bartender, as the woman Grantaire had indicated is nowhere in sight, and he orders two of the beers Grantaire had chosen. He shares a look out between the three as he waits for the glasses to fill. “Do you want to come inside and get cultured or get inebriated out here?”

“Out here, a while, sorry,” says Joly, gaze flicking sideways to the far end of the bar, where a broad-shouldered man with a daringly shaved head is sitting. “Some of us are already preoccupied. This was a fantastic idea, Enjolras.”

“Same, same,” says Courfeyrac, accepting the third drink sent his way, and even Combeferre nods him on, so Enjolras carries his burden of alcohol through the double doors alone. Inside it's much darker without the glow from the glass lamps, there's only the stage lights to illuminate, but he can pick out the outline of Grantaire at a distance.

He's standing with an attractively disheveled young man who is talking at brisk speed when Enjolras joins him, positioning just close enough to Grantaire to mean it without his body being an imposition.

Grantaire expresses a welcome with a little jump of his own body towards Enjolras and a cheery, “Oh, hello again! And beer! Hello! Enjolras, this is Feuilly, the best drummer in South Brooklyn.” Then Grantaire accepts the new drink with even more touching than had been involved in giving over the empty glass.

“There aren't many of us, granted,” Feuilly says. “The world always wants for more drummers. But we do what we can. And I do kind of rock. Pleased to meet you.”

Enjolras likes his very firm handshake -- a drummer would have that. “Can't wait to see the show.”

“You're in for a treat,” Feuilly agrees. “And don't listen to Grantaire here if he's downplayed his part. Dude's awesome.”

“Ha, ha,” deflects Grantaire. “Feuilly lives to make jokes, and for the Polish restaurants in Greenpoint. He's pulling your leg.”

“It's true I could show you a fabulous knish,” Feuilly starts, until Grantaire shoves at his shoulder, sending him spinning good-naturedly away towards a knot of nearby compatriots who catch him.

Grantaire says, once they're aloneish again, “Nevermind all that. My friends are--”

But what they are has to wait, because the dark room gets darker and the stage fills up, and the amps and stacked speakers pick up immediately with sound. They turn instinctively to the people who start singing, and the first song's a fast-paced folksy number performed by a group of thrift-store attired kids who barely look old enough to be in the bar.

They're catchy enough at least, and by the time they break out the experimental synthesizer, the room, which is more than half full, is swaying to the music. Grantaire swaying to the music is worth the price of admission before he has even approached the stage.

Enjolras waits until he is quite sure there is no one else within hearing distance, and then he says, very close to Grantaire's ear, “I want to fuck you. Again. And again. I would do it here, with everyone around us, if we were anywhere else in the world. Pick a city, pick a bar, and I'll fuck you there the way I want to right now.”

Grantaire does not stop swaying to the music, only reverses directions to mask his kneejerk reaction. “And how's that?” He doesn't hesitate. He is the opposite of hesitant. “I need to know, in order to choose the city to match it.”

Enjolras smiles, showing even teeth; anyone watching them might think they were discussing the inclement weather. “Onstage is too easy,” he says, skipping over it, but giving them the image, the idea of Enjolras on Grantaire with the limelights on them. “No. I want to see how long I can hold you up. Pick a wall, any wall. Which is your favorite? I'd fuck you there. I bet I could hold you up for an hour, or more. One hand under your ass, the other on your thigh -- you could keep your thighs locked around me, couldn't you? It'd be simple enough to do -- what do you think, Grantaire, about the wall? Which wall? Which city?”

“I have to go on in fifteen minutes,” Grantaire says, a lament. “This is completely unfair. This is the definition of unfair, in the dictionary.” He sucks on his lower lip, then says, shakily, “Maybe Medina, in Morocco. They aren't supposed to drink alcohol, so there's not much to do, and everyone just screws all night. I revise the bar idea. There are bathhouses where we could--”

“I like that,” Enjolras agrees, amenable. He has no idea what the hell he's doing, only that it seems to be working for them both. “Lift you up in steam, press you against tile, open you up and fuck you until you can't do anything but beg me to keep doing it--” Thankfully the synthesizer is wailing, as is the lead singer helped by a dreadlocked girl with a tambourine, and their worlds are lost underneath, pitched murmurs only they can hear.

“Seriously, man, twelve minutes and then I--”

“It's what I should have done in the shower that morning,” Enjolras finishes. “It's what I wanted to do. I've been thinking about it, too.” He has a sip of beer, and after a long moment Grantaire echoes the gesture. His pull takes in more beer.

“You're lucky I play bass and that it covers me on stage,” says Grantaire, failing to sound annoyed or make Enjolras feel lucky.

“I'll make it up to you,” Enjolras promises, and then Grantaire says nothing at all but satisfaction, silently, and they sway to the music and drink Full Sail. His hand ghosts the line of Grantaire's hip, there and then away, and back when Grantaire least expects it.

Joly at Enjolras' elbow when he least expects it. “You have to help. The love of my life is getting up to leave the bar.”

Enjolras, then Grantaire, turn to blink at him. Joly's bowtie is just a little jostled. “Enjolras, I'm serious. Grantaire, I apologize for the intrusion. But this is serious. I'm not sure which procedure would be best in this situation, and he's paying his check, and he's -- there he is!”

Joly's finger juts; and they follow it to the swinging doors, where the man with the shoulders and the shaved head has come through.

“Calm down,” says Enjolras, questioning the bringing of his friends for the first time, since he'd really rather fast-forward through the night or hop a plane to Medina, Morocco with Grantaire in the window seat. “Joly. You could buy him a drink, or say, you know, hello, or--”

“You're about as helpful as Combeferre,” Joly snaps in desperation, tracking the man across the room, making to go after him, and not, until he's bouncing about it.

Until Grantaire says, staring, “Oh. Oh. You mean Bossuet? He's, uh -- he's a really great guy. He's in the band, actually. Actually, he's gotta set-up, so why don't I introduce you after we go on?”

Joly's eyes are shining. “You know him?”

“Yeah, totally. For a coupla years. We work together sometimes at catering gigs. He's one of the good guys.”

Joly's eyes are cutting. “You dated?”

Grantaire's laugh is a pleasant huff that Enjolras likes, no offenses taken at presumptions. “Can't say I've had the pleasure myself. But I'll fully vouch for his non-badness.”

“Good enough for me.” Joly pats Grantaire's cheek fondly, lifts eyebrows at Enjolras that say we really like him, then spins on his bespoke heel and is out past the doors again.

“My friends--” Enjolras starts. It's his turn.

“They seem chill,” says Grantaire, with a tiny smile, tilting back into the closer space he'd vacated upon Joly's appearance. “And I have eight minutes to tune up, and you owe me.”

“All true things,” agrees Enjolras.

“I'm going to be hard for half the set,” says Grantaire.

He's curious. “What's the effect of arousal on musical aptitude?”

“Tread lightly,” warns Grantaire. “I could hate you again.”

“I remember how that went,” says Enjolras. “You said that right before I fucked you the first time.”

“Seven minutes, for the love of God.” Grantaire backsteps. “I have to -- I have to get myself in gear. You -- you stay right here. Yes, right here will obscure the sight of me nicely. I need to go make the necessary sacrifices to Orpheus and Jimi Hendrix, if you'll just excuse me until --”

He touches the small of Grantaire's back. “It's five minutes, now, by my watch. Thanks for the tip on finding a better vantage point. Break a leg.” His hand only shoves a little, and Grantaire's eyes only say I hate you, a little.

Grantaire has no sooner hurried behind a curtain before the rest of Enjolras' own band beams in around him. On stage, the love of Joly's life is thumbing the keyboard ivories, which means Joly is watching with rapt attention, and Courfeyrac has brought along a small crowd of new friends to join them. Combeferre, lager in hand, drifts to his usual spot at Enjolras' side and settles in for the show. They trade basic intelligence on the venue and the social setting, comparing notes.

“Honest opinion,” Enjolras says quietly. Grantaire has come out onto the stage, positioning himself close to the drumkit and behind the front mic. The base slung over his neck is black and old and shiny, faded at the frets with good use. He plugs in, and Enjolras' eyes are on Grantaire's hands turning pegs and testing keys. Grantaire's dark head is ducked, the fall of his hair framing the intensity of concentration on his face. Enjolras should have bought more tickets.

“I'm always honest,” Combeferre points out, “and I said that he seemed perfectly nice, and I think he is.”

Enjolras counts on Combeferre's opinion because his statement is the simple truth: Combeferre does not lie; but better yet, he is the only one who will be brutal with him, take him to task, call him out on his mistakes and his arrogance and show him himself.

He's thankful for the calm balance of Combeferre every day, but it isn't often he's asked his dearest friend to be a judge in such a personal scenario. Usually Combeferre is reigning him in on global revolutionary action, not how fast or far to take it with a tousle-haired bassist far outside their sphere of reference.

“Not your usual type,” Combeferre observes, because there's a reason Enjolras loves him, and trusts him, amongst friends and fellows. Combeferre is willing to vocalize his inner monologue and hash it out so he doesn't have to. So Enjolras nods. It's true enough: the reason he and Grantaire met at all was because they weren't meant to fit together.

“It could be a good thing, something new,” says Combeferre. Then, painfully fair, “Or it could prove incompatible. Either way, it doesn't have to be bad. If you want honesty, I guess I'm glad. It wasn't just Courfeyrac, we've all been worried about you. You're very good at what you do, Enjolras, but even you can burn out, only you never do. You needed to relax, and if this --” he stops talking abruptly, realizing that he's run away with the analysis. He glances over at Grantaire tuning, then back. “Anyway,” he says, clearing his throat, “He's lovely, as far as physical specimens go.”

“Combeferre,” says Enjolras, “Never leave me. I must never be without you.” He gives his shoulder a thankful squeeze and has another sip of beer while they both consider Grantaire.

It's not as though he needed Combeferre's permission or approval; but if he'd disliked Grantaire, it would have given Enjolras considerable pause. Combeferre's instincts are as good, occasionally better, than his own; he sees things and code and people more broadly, can pull back to see the bigger picture. And if Combeferre approves--

“It's a pleasure to serve,” says Combeferre, half-seriously, with a more playful elbow to Enjolras' ribs, so that they grin at each other and then shift their focus back to the prepping musicians: conversation over, and settled. Enjolras is still grinning when Grantaire steals a look at him, fingers curved over silver strings, and Grantaire smiles back to find him watching.

The stagelights flare once, then plunge the room into dusky light, and Joly's darling is picking out a slow build on the keyboard. A moment later Feuilly kicks in on the drums, with Grantaire right behind him; and Enjolras wants to focus on the sounds Grantaire is making, but the singer is striding onto stage with a guitar across her back, walking straight into a crescendo, and it's difficult not to look at her.

Coffee-colored hair given a pixie cut, the kind of pixie with teeth and sharp claws. A literal streak of blue running through the spiked tufts. Fierce eyes beneath the fierce cap of hair, fierce face, fierce everything. The waist of a Manhattan waif, which contrasted with a uniform of the high guard of Brooklyn: leggings and layered vintage dresses in prints that should clash but don't, the sleeves of tattoos on both arms showing from beneath the demure, ironic puff of a '50s cuff. Piercings at the cheek, nose, eyebrow, all long her ears: a fairy unafraid of iron, thinks Enjolras. It's the girl who had vanished from behind the bar, manifested now as something else.

“We're The Barricades. Thanks for being here.” People have begun to turn from conversation to watch her take the mic. She steps under the spotlight and opens her mouth as Grantaire climbs a scale and Feuilly keeps the beat. “Now we're gonna take you somewhere else--”

She has to be a professional, thinks Enjolras, this is just a gig with her friends to pass the time. Her voice is transcendent; it has a life of its own, smoky and breathy and soaring, a force that seizes the band behind her and the captured audience and flings them all forward. The song is about driving across the country with good friends and bourbon in the backseat, driving away from the past, but the words are hardly the point; the gorgeous explosion of her vocals is. Paired to the band's graceful energy, the sound has caused every conversation to stop.

Nearby even Combeferre rocks back a little on his feet, which is promising. Combeferre's a bit of a music snob, was almost insufferable when he worked at the record shop in college. There's nothing but appreciation now in the face he turns on the band, and Enjolras is glad.

To have the show not suck is obviously a relief, but this is more than he could have expected. Joly has wormed his way to the front of the stage to better view his chosen one; the noise from the keyboard is electric but in the manner of piano players everywhere, Bossuet is focused on the task at hand and hasn't examined the crowd. Courfeyrac is already dancing. And Grantaire is playing with his head ducked again, long fingers going from chord to chord, one booted foot tapping out the rhythm.

Enjolras watches Grantaire, and pays attention, even if he's also thinking about the things he wants to do to him. Is going to do to him.

He can stop thinking about this like it's an uncertain thing, he thinks. He hasn't let himself think that -- he's been holding back.

But how would he evaluate his own situation, if briefed? He's at an out-of-the-way bar to see the guy he recently slept with (several times) play music in a merging-of-friends evening, his closest friends are here and there's no going back from this. It's definitely a second date, and a big one, more like a fifth or sixth. Grantaire had greeted him with an arm around his back, and Enjolras had bent to kiss his cheek and followed that up with a description of the ways in which he'd fuck him in exotic locales. This may not be how he usually behaves, but it's happening.

After this, they'll all be Facebook friends, and Joly doesn't look to be leaving without a mate from Grantaire's stock, and Courfeyrac will have everyone's phone numbers and maybe a part in an off-off-off Broadway production. But Enjolras has been holding back, been wondering for all his bluster if he can or should be expecting to go home with Grantaire. To take Grantaire back home.

The answer to which, thinks Enjolras, his eyes following the slide and strum of Grantaire's fingers, is of course. Of course he is. Isn't that what they both want, hasn't he promised Grantaire as much and more?

At least he doesn't want to fast forward quite as quickly now. The band's second song picks up speed and a pleading urgency of lyrics, and all of them are good; all good to observe in their melodic art, and he tries, though Grantaire is tricky to look away from.

By the fifth song he's suitably impressed and has decided there's no way he's going to make it to the end of the night without some sort of mission involving Grantaire to tide him over. His heart is beating harder than the trip-hippy beat should allow. In the space of the show, the band has only gotten tighter and tighter, brimming with confidence from the audience's approval, and Enjolras comes to recognize a downside of Grantaire proving himself a perfectly able and enraptured bass player.

He's not the only one with eyes on Grantaire. Hardly. It was hard enough to miss him, but add the stage element and the worn-in bass and the blue-black gleam of his hair, and Enjolras knows other people are looking at Grantaire with similar considerations as his own, and God knows what else. At least hipsters are generally not fighters. He can probably hold them off after the show with a pack of American Spirits tossed outside.

But while Enjolras sympathizes, he doesn't like all the extra stares Grantaire is collecting, and it makes his fingers twitch from something other than rhythm. He forces himself listen to the songs with at least half an ear, for distraction; the rhymes are deft enough, and there are a couple of catchy, promising hooks that the singer takes off with. She's skilled on the guitar, too, and wears it on her hip to join the band in improvised riffs.

They smile at each other and play off with the ease of a group accustomed to experimenting and laughing and doing many things together, letting each take a solo in turn. When it's Grantaire's turn, he lifts his head and his fingers are sure, and he only looks at Enjolras.

He really does try to listen. The songs are well-constructed and some have a political bent, bemoaning overdue student loans and the hungry streets of the city alongside the expected broken Brooklyn hearts. He likes the music just fine, very much. It's only that it can't be anything other than secondary while he has the expectation of Grantaire in its wake.

The sharp, pervasive focus on another person is new to Enjolras, but he can't see how there's anything wrong with the all-encompassing need to nail Grantaire back against the wall with his body and call it performance art.

They finish with a wrenching, melancholy number that showcases the tiny, mighty singer, and Enjolras doesn't have to pretend to listen as she yanks them all through aching octaves with a song about losing the only thing that made her feel alive, so is she even living, can you tell her, how can you tell? Surely she's not crying through the breathless end; the sweat of exertion streaks her face; but the audience is rapt, and Combeferre's mouth is open, a little.

The applause is loud and appreciative, with wolf-whistles and a lot of noise from some of the people he'd seen talking to Grantaire, and the band is beaming back red-faced, squinting out at them from the lights.

“That's Feuilly kicking ass and drums. Ask him about his fans. Our own Beethoven, Bossuet --” Bossuet plays a measure of 'Chopsticks' and finally looks up long enough to give a friendly wave -- “and, saving the music by stepping in on bass for the night, your favorite ringer and mine, the fair Grantaire. Be sure to buy him a drink. This has been The Barricades. I'm Eponine, and tonight you are my favorite people in the world until we close up and I forget all about you. Be sure to tip your bartenders. They know all your secrets.” She slots in the mic, blows an obscene kiss, and saunters out the way in which she came. On her exit she is propelled by cheers.

Grantaire has flushed from the heat of playing and, thinks Enjolras, from the praise, but he shares over another look that's too drawn-out not to be intentional before turning his attention to untangling cables and gathering up his gear. Enjolras doesn't tear his eyes away until Grantaire is trailing his bandmates backstage and the next act is replacing them.

“Wow.” Joly needs to stop popping up with zero warning. Enjolras' nerves are frayed as is. But Joly has Apparated next to Combeferre. “He—they were pretty great, weren't they? That was great. I thought it was going to be a lot of the typical shoe-gaze-y indie nonsense, but I felt like they had a lot to say. Didn't you think, Enjolras? And your boy was adorable, his little solo was so sweetly done -- certainly, he doesn't quite have the skill level of the rest, like Bossuet, who must've trained somewhere, don't you think? A conservatory, somewhere. Don't frown at me like that, Enjolras, he did very well, I didn't mean to say--”

“He's not--” Enjolras isn't sure what he wants to say about Grantaire, so he shuts his mouth, and then he says, “Promise me your next two drinks are going to be tonic with no gin, Joly.”

“Fine, fine. But do you think Grantaire will really--”

Grantaire really does keep his word, is keeping it, and Enjolras puts a hand on Joly's shoulder to spin him the opposite direction, where Grantaire is approaching with the promised Bossuet in tow. He makes mild excuses to introduce the affable newcomer to the foreign group; but his work and the deed is done with the introduction.

Joly and Bossuet clasp hands, and then kind of keep like that, and keep holding, and they're still doing
that when Enjolras and Grantaire back slowly away.

Combeferre's closeby to congratulate Grantaire on the show, and to ask a carefully respectable question about harmonies, which Grantaire seizes on to, and Feuilly manifests to pass over a fresh drink. Enjolras has barely exchanged one word for another before Grantaire's attention is grabbed by someone else. It's all wonderfully well-intentioned, the congratulations and interjections sent Grantaire's way, so he tries not to feel frustrated by the bodies that pile up in between them.

Only Grantaire is a little too willing to be co-opted. Well-wishers keep pressing in, and pressing drinks into his hand, and though he casts a helpless sort of “terribly sorry” shrug at Enjolras he cannot seem to break away from it.

A crowd has parted them, and Combeferre is no help now, gone to find the pixie to talk about her pitch, while Courfeyrac is holding court with five people he's doesn't recognize, and Joly is still staring up at Bossuet, holding his hand and talking a mile a minute. They still haven't moved from the introductory pose, and it has moved past excessive.

How come everyone is giving them space, though, sidestepping Joly and Bossuet while they gaze into each others' eyes, and he's halfway across the room from Grantaire and only gets to stare at the back of his neck and the way his hair curls there?

“I have to say, I'm a little surprised.” Eponine has found Enjolras, falling in alongside him just as he's decided to move across the room and make a space next to Grantaire. He starts, but fast recovers, and keeps his motion; she hovers nearby. “You're a very different sort than Grantaire's normal. I think I like that. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.” She crooks a grin at Enjolras and pats his arm at the bicep. “Let's be friends. You're Enjolras. I hear you enjoy fine dining and boring computing. I'm Eponine. I know everyone and everything that happens in this borough, which is good for you if I like you and less good if you piss me off and ever want to get a drink in Brooklyn again.”

Enjolras enjoys the bravado, and is grinning back as he shakes her hand. Her handshake, firm and short, brokers even less nonsense. He appreciates when people say what they think; he does not have time for small talk and avoids it whenever possible.

“Charmed,” he tells Eponine, letting her see that he's taken in what's said and unsaid and they're agreed. “You were fantastic, by the way. My best friend may be stalking you in order to discuss your vibrato, which he described as 'heavenly.'”

“That's a good start. Keep on like that, and we'll see you going places, Ken.” They're approaching the collection of people around Grantaire, who has tilted back his head to take down half the measure of a glass of liquor and ice, his expression etched with merriment. “And if you hurt him I'm going to cut your balls off.”

“Noted,” says Enjolras, toasting her with the remains of his beer. “What did you just call me?”

“Your nickname since Grantaire first showed your picture,” Eponine explains. “I'm pleased at how well it bears up in the flesh. Have you seen yourself, man? You look like you just fell out of Barbie's dreamhouse. Hey, don't go bashful on me now, it's meant to be a compliment. Is there a place for ladies on that website you guys used?”

Luckily Grantaire has spotted them by then and swings happily in their direction, enfolding both Enjolras and Eponine in an exuberant three-person hug where only one person is hugging. “Oh my god, you guys met! I was just about to introduce you. Enjolras, this is Eponine. Ep, this is -- oh, but you know that now, of course, you already met. What have you been talking about? Not I, said the duck. Ep, everyone's saying it's the best Barricades they've seen yet. I've been hearing mention of the Knitting Factory next, no joke. Wasn't she incredible, Enjolras? I would have warned you about what Ep can do, but I wanted it to be a surprise. Did your friends like the show? I really hope they did. I'm so sorry about fucking up the fretting on the third chorus of 'Seattle,' I feel like such an asshole about it, I know I should have practiced more and you guys were counting on me to--” and on and on, while his arms stay draped around their shoulders.

“No one knew until now, Grantaire, you covered up really well, just like you're supposed to. You don't see me kicking Feuilly's ass for forgetting how we'd agreed to end 'Riot Gear,' do you? No, because he covered it up, and also I save my ass-kickings for private time.” She smiles fondly, extracting herself from under Grantaire's arm. “Now if you'll excuse me, there's a bourbon at the bar with my name on it, and it misses me.” Eponine leans in close to Grantaire's ear, but murmurs loud enough for Enjolras to catch, “He's a real doll,” before she lets the crowd swallow her back up.

“So that's Eponine,” Grantaire says, watching her go with a mingled look of affection and admiration.

“That's Eponine,” Enjolras agrees.

“She keeps us all together,” says Grantaire. “You wouldn't believe the stuff she's been through. Don't let her fool you with the tough act, she's a giant teddy bear.”

A teddy bear perfectly capable of castration, thinks Enjolras. But he has Grantaire alone again beside him after a long while of waiting, so he picks an easier subject. “The band was great,” he tells him. There's a lock of dark hair that keeps falling in front of Grantaire's eyes, and he reaches to brush it back. He wants to do a lot more than that. “And so were you. I was impressed.”

Grantaire considers his hand, tracing the motion of it with his eyes, shivering only a little as Enjolras tucks hair behind his ear. It's an intimate action. Committal. Grantaire's tongue darts out to wet his lips, and he says, “If you're flattering me to increase your chances of a blowjob in the bathroom, believe me when I say your chances are very good.”

Heat surges through Enjolras, and not for the first time does he think about how dangerously Grantaire makes him want to behave in public. When they're like this, together with sex strung between them, it's as though there are no consequences or ramifications for flagrant display that could possibly deter him. “No hyperbole,” Enjolras says. “On either of our parts, I expect. I think we should--”

Because the bathroom, once mentioned, seems an extraordinarily excellent sort of idea; it has crossed his mind already, of course, but he hasn't been able to do the necessary reconnaissance yet. But if Grantaire thinks they can -- if Grantaire is thinking -- fuck, the things Grantaire is thinking --

Okay, look, he likes Grantaire's friends. They seem a smart, open-minded, exotically mixed bunch, solid and warm in their camaraderie; he likes them. But the party never seems to stop, because here's Feuilly again with a brand new drink for Grantaire, who hails it and him, and here comes Bossuet with Joly on his arm, because they are apparently participating in a costume drama of manners no one else can see, and Enjolras knows he can't blame Grantaire's friends alone, this is his fault, too.

By the time Courfeyrac has climbed up on stage to join the current singer in a cover of Fleetwood Mac's 'Landslide,' even Enjolras has given up trying to make sense out of the night and has accepted another drink, since Eponine made it.

But he can't get the idea of the bathroom out of his mind or his pulse. When he can't find Grantaire in the crowd or at the bar, he excuses himself and heads in the appointed direction. There's a significant line, and when he's at the head of it, he's been there long enough to see that one door has remained unopened. He lets the woman behind him take his place on the line with a gracious gesture.

“Think it might actually be empty, gonna check,” he informs her, heading to the furthest door, and jiggling the handle, which he had, in fact, checked before, and found locked. Now the doorknob turns under his hand. Enjolras waves cheerfully to the bathroom line as he goes in.

Grantaire is on him, thudding the door closed and throwing the bolt. It's a tiny single-occupant bathroom with terrible lighting to soften the rude graffiti on the cinderblock walls, toilet and dripping sink and Grantaire pulling his hair and going for a kiss that bends them backwards. Grantaire tastes like four kinds of alcohol but his tongue is not uncoodinated: it licks hot and sure into Enjolras' mouth, and Grantaire has one of his wrists clasped and he pins it to the door, and he keeps doing that, keeps licking and pinning, while Enjolras' mind and body struggle to come up with a counterattack.

When Grantaire releases him to breathe he takes advantage of the vulnerability, looping one arm around Grantaire's lower back and the other under his ass, hitching him up easily to be positioned against the sink, his head resting on the mirror, black hair doubled and reflected in the glass. Grantaire makes a sound, not disapproving, no, but, “I wanted to -- I said I'd --”

“I want to do this instead,” says Enjolras. He strips off his coat and hangs it up, extracting something from a pocket. Then he undoes Grantaire's belt and zipper, and starts to work Grantaire's jeans down over his hips.

Grantaire shifts his body accommodatingly enough, but his eyebrows are up, and there's the beginning of what might be a blush on his cheekbones. “Wow. You, uh -- in here? I--”

“I'm not going to fuck you in the bathroom,” says Enjolras. “Not tonight, at least. But I'll tell you what I am going to do.” He gets the jeans down far enough for Grantaire to be able to spread naked thighs, but keeps them on so that he doesn't betray what he has just stated. Grantaire looks too good, is temptation personified, jeans half-off and his cock already hard from nothing but the anticipation of hiding out in the bathroom and the kiss and Enjolras looking at it, and Grantaire's t-shirt has ridden up to show the lines of his abs and the tapered V of his hipbones. His head is sort of lolling against the mirror.

“I'm going to open you up for me,” he tells Grantaire. He opens the small package in his hand and slicks his fingers with its slippery contents. They don't have much time, even this is a reckless indulgence, so he follows description with action and slides one finger into Grantaire without pause.

Grantaire watches him do all of these things and then he shudders and he kicks out a foot, and might have said something only Enjolras is saying, “Start you here, stretch you out and get you ready,” and it's two fingers already, and he is relentless, pushing them deep. “So that when I fuck you later, I won't have to wait. I can just take you and fuck you anywhere, and you'll be ready for me.”

“Christ God,” says Grantaire, his head connecting with the mirror. Enjolras finds a crook and twist of his fingers that makes Grantaire groan and groan until he finds breath enough to say, “You -- Enjolras -- I -- I can't believe you brought lube -- I can't believe I didn't --”

Enjolras laughs as much as a man on such a mission can laugh, tilting down to capture Grantaire's lower lip between his teeth before lets go to answer. “Wish I could take full credit, but it's from the stash they keep alongside the condoms and safe-sex pamphlets at the bar. Very educational.” Yeah so maybe he's never been the sort to walk around with lube in his pocket and use it an hour later but maybe he's going to be that sort when it comes Grantaire.

He wants to make Grantaire come, very badly, wants to feel with his fingers what Grantaire is like from the inside out when he gives himself over. Enjolras wants to make it happen, wants to watch Grantaire's orgasm from this vantage point, wants to see how his face turns and see how it changes the shape of his mouth. He informs Grantaire of his intention as Grantaire rolls his body to the rough rhythm of Enjolras' hand, but Grantaire shakes his head, shakes out black curls.

“Don't,” he whispers, urgent. “I want to wait -- fuck, just like that, yes, wait until you're in me. Be even better if I wait, if I -- so I -- just give me another,” and “Please,” so Enjolras does, fitting three fingers into Grantaire before he gets to the S in “please.”

There is a trickle of sweat on Grantaire's collarbone, showing at the collar, and Enjolras licks it away, then bites sharply there; Grantaire is salty-sweet and tender under his teeth.

A few people have rattled or tried the door half-heartedly, but now there's a louder, more annoyed knock, and Grantaire gives a shaky laugh. “We should--”

“We should go,” suggests Enjolras, freeing his fingers with every show of reluctance. He wants to go back on what he said, wants to just hold Grantaire here on the sink and get out his cock which is rock-hard and push into Grantaire all in one go. Wants to fuck him hard and quick and fast and filthily, in the no doubt filthy bathroom, but he doesn't care, just needs to--

“Are you okay in there?” A concerned voice from the hallway. Joly's.

Enjolras hitches a sigh of half-relief that it's Joly and helps Grantaire with the struggle back into his jeans, both of them biting their lips on laughter and adrenaline, and before he opens the door Grantaire wraps his arms around his neck, and kisses him, this time without the questing tongue, more gentle, with a focus on the texture of it.

“Just a moment,” says Enjolras, and gives Grantaire a more heated kiss in return, one that he hopes speaks to what he wishes they could do.

Grantaire says, “I have to say some goodbyes, but we'll go soon, okay?” He slants an eyebrow and a suggestive glance. “We could take a taxi.”

“Let's take the train,” says Enjolras. “It's faster.”

The hallway has been vacated, and they escape from the bathroom without detection. Enjolras silently nominates Joly for sainthood, since Courfeyrac would have waited to snap a picture for Twitter if he thought they were both inside. But he doesn't see either of his friends in the music room, where an acid rock act is setting up, and Grantaire heads over to say goodbyes with one promising look cast over his shoulder at Enjolras.

There's Combeferre still by the stage, though, steady as always, tapping away at his phone. He's likely handling the Collective business for the night, and Enjolras is amazed, then feels guilty, and unburdened, to realize he's gone several hours without checking his own phone at all, or thinking about the tenuous freedom of the information age. He shakes his head as he sidles up to Combeferre.

Combeferre gives an evaluation from behind glasses that says he can very well guess at Enjolras' activities, but he says with great restraint, “Welcome back. You'll find yourself mostly abandoned. Joly's gone on to the next bar with his Prince Charming, and Courfeyrac's gone to a party in an apartment that promises to have 'awesome drugs, yo.' We were all invited,” says Combeferre, tucking his phone away and keeping his eyes on the stage but not the amusement from his voice, “But I told him the chances of our attendance were slim. As for me, I think I'll head for home before the F train turns into an A train and the usual MTA hell-dance. I trust I leave you in capable hands?”

Enjolras looks at him. Combeferre's by far the most composed person at the bar at this point; most of the people are tipsy, and Enjolras' sweater has been disturbed by the desperate reach of Grantaire's hands, and in the corner Grantaire and his friends are laughing and jostling, on their way to proper drunk. Only Combeferre seems coolly unchanged, sipping the remains of his second lager. Combeferre, so predictable and so good. Enjolras, a little tipsy, gives him a hug on the side of bearish.

Then he lets him go and propels him on his way. “I'll be just fine. You still good to host Strategy Brunch Sunday?” The name of the monthly meeting had been Bahorel's brainchild, and had unfortunately stuck.

Combeferre nods. “Yeah, I've outdone myself this time, with the platter of bagels I ordered. It's elaborate.” He smiles as he backs away. “Have a nice night, okay? I'm really glad I came.”

“Me too,” says Enjolras, and with Combeferre gone all he can do is ignore his phone, and wait for Grantaire to be done saying farewell, a process that turns out to span several more drinks. But he doesn't look at his phone, he makes himself watch more music and watch as Grantaire flits from person to person with grace, but also a thoroughness that is almost manic. He smiles for everyone, or frowns with them, eyebrows knitting with concern. Or he cants his head in an admiring laugh, or says nothing at all, listening intently. He seems to be everything to everyone, and whenever Enjolras looks over, Grantaire doesn't look much like the man he's getting to know.

At long last, that Grantaire, even more intoxicated, with redder cheeks and brighter eyes, is returned, and he presses himself to Enjolras' hip. Enjolras allows it, sliding one arm around Grantaire, partially to make sure he stays on his feet.

“So sorry,” Grantaire mouths against his ear. “Tried to get away, but everyone's been so excited about the show, I couldn't -- and I had another whiskey --”

He'd had two more, and a beer besides that, but only Enjolras was counting.

“It's okay,” says Enjolras. “You guys earned it. Just say you're ready to go now?”

“I put my Metrocard in my coat pocket and everything,” says Grantaire.

That's what he's been waiting to hear. They fetch their stuff from the big pile on a bench, bundling up against the snowy weather. Grantaire has a different scarf tonight, a blue two shades lighter than his eyes, and he takes a while wrapping it while Enjolras studies the movement. If he's imaging what it might be like to bind Grantaire's pale wrists to his bedposts, with something soft, like a scarf made in sky-blue or sea-green, only he gets to know that, though Grantaire could guess.

They take the subway, fitting in the two-person sideseat in the front of the car. They make out the whole way back, but it's New York City, and they're nothing particularly special to see, and everyone has something better to do than stare.

So they don't stop kissing from the first stop through the changeover at Hoyt-Schemerhorn, the station Enjolras has always disliked for its low-lit abandoned track but Grantaire says oh no it's cool look it's like a ghost station or something, and then they kiss some more by a pillar with tiles that spell out HOYT, and they kiss their way onto the G train, which brings them home.